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Interim Infatuation

Posted by Matt on July 23, 2007


A recent headline by ESPN baseball correspondent, Buster Olney, eluded to the fact that Cincinnati Reds’ manager Pete Mackanin has nothing to lose for the remainder of the season (I never was given the opportunity to read this article as it is an “ESPN Insider” article and I refuse to pay for that).

That being said, there is truth to this statement:

If Mackanin does well he receives a (semi) permanent job as manager of the Reds and becomes the next opportunist in a growing line of interim-managers to get on the full-time payroll in Cincinnati.

If Mackanin does poorly, he receives the axe (as manager) at the end of the season and reenters his role as a scout in the front office; nothing gained, nothing lost as he was only “interim” either way.

However, the more I pondered this statement, the more I saw a bigger problem within the Reds organization: their infatuation with interim-managers.

Beyond the basics mentioned above, interim-managers truly don’t have anything to lose. This allows them to take more chances on the field and speak more candidly in the locker room, basically making the team more interesting to watch and follow on, and off, of the field. Hit-and-runs, double steals, erratic substitution patterns, behavior that would normally cause an uprising (if a failure) no longer does because the season as a whole is a lost cause. Plus, what does an interim manager care regarding his behavior, especially if it is working?

Pete Mackanin is 10-7 (.588) in 17-games making debatable whether or not “it is working,” but there are already ESPN analysts talking permanent contract; are they watching this interim-managers with the same red-colored glasses as the Reds’ front office have others over the past five years?


Jerry Narron took the title of Interim-Manager on June 21, 2005 and finished the season 46-46 (.500), which was far better than manager’s (Dave Miley) record of 27-43 (.386) at the time. Narron was given a contract after his 2005 successes and worked a full season in 2006, finishing 80-82 (.494) and just over half of a season this year, finishing 31-51 (.378), before falling to the wayside. Narron truly did turn the team around in 2005 and even had a solid season last year finishing just 3.5-games behind the Divisional, and eventual World Series, Champs, the Saint Louis Cardinals. However, the honeymoon ended quickly and Jerry was fired on July 2, 2007. However, Narron never finished above .500 and with .500 being his interim-season, one could argue that he was managing with nothing to lose.

Before there was Jerry Narron there was Dave Miley, a manager who spent the same one-and-a-half years as full-time manager after his half-year of interim status as did Jerry Narron. Miley was named Interim-Manager on July 28, 2003 after the firing of manager Bob Boone who, at the time, had a record of 46-58 (.442). Now contrary to the pattern of Narron and now Mackanin, Miley did not actually do better than is predecessor and finished the 2003 season at 22-35 (.386). Improvements were not necessarily seen on the field but the “nothing-to-lose” attitude must have earned Miley some bonus points somewhere and most believe his years of successful Minor League service (1,115-841 W/L) were why the Reds kept him on at the time. I maintain the reason why they kept him on was his photogenic qualities:


Regardless, the Reds have a recent history of latching on to interim-managers, who may have had some moderate success somewhere, in an attempt to promote from within or save money, or possibly both. The problem with this situation is that as soon as interim-managers are hired on full-time, the “nothing-to-lose” attitude becomes a thing of the past. It is no secret that the Reds’ fans, and the Reds organization for that matter, do not expect to compete for World Series’ rings yearly, so as soon as a manager has a hint of job security they being not playing to win, but playing NOT to lose. Not to lose games, but more importantly, not to lose their jobs. As long as you can keep the Reds out of dead last (something Miley and Narron eventually failed to do) you can seemingly keep your job in Cincinnati, and that is how a manager becomes complacent and becomes focused on merely maintaining the status quo. With both Narron and Miley, the love from the fans and the front office ended quite quickly, as if their whole tenure was merely on an interim basis.

I have nothing against Pete Mackanin, or his coaching abilities, but he is better suited for this franchise in the front office, not in the dugout. And I hope the Reds realize this.
I hope the Reds organization realizes the “interim epidemic” that is developing in Cincinnati and finally goes outside of the organization to find a young or proven manager, or both (see: Joe Girardi), and spends the money to turn this franchise around.

I hope that the Reds take the road that the Cincinnati Bengals took when they finally looked out from within when they found Marvin Lewis after a series of in-house promotions (Dick LeBeau, Bruce Coslet, etcetera).

And simply, I hope the Cincinnati Reds can get past their “interim infatuation.”


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